Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
Black pepper comes from a flowering vine that is native to south India. The same plant is used to also produce white pepper, red/pink pepper and green pepper. When dried, the fruit is known as peppercorn. Pepper is one of the most popular spices in European cuisine. It has also long been used as medicine. Pepper has been used as a spice since prehistoric times. Peppercorns were found in the nostrils of Ramses II of Egypt. This was part of the mummification ritual.
Black Pepper was known and used in herbal remedies in China as early as 2 BCE. Pepper was used in Greece as far back as 4 BCE. The Romans brought pepper back on their trade routes and it became a very popular spice. In Europe, pepper was used as currency. By the Middle Ages, it was so costly in Europe that the Portuguese took to the sea to find their own trade route to India.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Black pepper is used to aid the digestion and to relieve gas. In Chinese herbal medicine, black pepper is used to treat cholera, dysentery, vomiting caused by hypothermia, stomach chills and for food poisoning. In Ayurvedic medicine, pepper is used for nausea, to stimulate the appetite and to address other stomach complaints. Pepper is antioxidant, antifungal and anti-inflammatory. Historically, black pepper was used to treat constipation, earache, gangrene, heart disease, hernia, indigestion, insomnia, insect bites, hoarseness, joint pain, liver problems, lung disease, sunburn, mouth abscesses and diarrhea.
Externally Black pepper is used in Ayurvedic medicine mixed with ghee for sinusitis, epilepsy, nasal congestion and skin eruptions.
Parts Used Essential oil is used in aromatherapy for pain relief, muscle aches, exhaustion, fever and to increase the circulation. It is sometimes used to treat toothache and rheumatic pains. It is analgesic, antiseptic, diuretic and a tonic. It can be insecticidal.
Fruit The fruit, otherwise known as the peppercorn, is used both as a spice and as a medicine.
Excessive use of black pepper essential oil may over-stimulate the kidneys. Pregnant and lactating women should not use pepper. It should not be used on children. Do not use if you are on prescription anticoagulant drugs. Watch for signs of sensitivity: red eyes, sore throat or thirst. This herb is toxic in large amounts.
Preparation and Dosage
The average dose per day of peppercorns is 1 to 3 grams for a decoction, powder or pills. If you are taking commercial preparations, follow the directions on the label or consult your care provider.